As a writer on ministry on Jewish issues and Israel, a qualified tour guide to the Holy Land with InnerFaith Travel and as the Australian cricket chaplain of 17 years, I was invited to Poland for this 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in 2005.
Accompanying me was my friend of 48 years Peter Scotland whose father Tom Scotland flew 63 missions as a Pathfinder pilot in WWII and who dropped supplies over Warsaw during that 1944 uprising.
Bridges for Peace International is a Christian mission based in Jerusalem who have an unparalleled relationship with officials in the Israeli Government, received an invitation to have gentile delegates for the 2005 March of the Living in Auschwitz for this 60th anniversary.
International Media director for Bridges for Peace at that time was Ron Ross an Australian who ministered with me over many years in sports evangelism having been one of the nation's leading television sports editors. He requested me and my wife Delma as the cricket chaplain be two of these delegates. Delma sought to keep the family fires at home functioning, so Peter Scotland gladly came along.
The March of the Living is an annual pilgrimage of young Jewish people from around the world who on 6 March each year engage in this remembrance march from Auschwitz 1 to Auschwitz 2 (Birkenau). On entrance to Bikenau through the infamous railway line entrance, delegates are led through the camp followed by speeches from dignitaries.
In 2005 the Prime Ministers of both Israel and Poland addressed the 60th anniversary delegates and the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem gave the key note address.
There was time set aside to each delegate to remember quietly, and to lay remembrance wooden tags with Holocaust names (I participated in this).
The most revealing thing to me were the 'youth' of the Polish Police and Military personnel whose task it was to ensure total security for these 21,000 young Jewish people in attendance.
It was the same 'youth' aspect 60 plus years earlier, that drew my attention, in that the German guards were very young, easily manipulated, without conscience or being aware of the value of life without children of their own, and it was they who mercilessly sent millions into the gas chambers.
Now anti-Semitism is back with vengeance - daily attacks on Jewish people around the world and in Australia too. Two weeks ago in Melbourne Muslim boys smashed a Jewish boy on his way to school – that story spread around the world like wild fire.
Jewish schools in Australia have armed security guards at the school gates. But go to Israel, there are armed military everywhere due to the ravings of militant Muslim Palestinians. Strange that no other nearby Muslim country wants them. I have Christian associates who visit Palestine and choose never to see such.
At the same time I have friends who are Palestinian Christians and see things very differently from their militant Muslim neighbours.
But those Christians associates never tell that side of the story – rather they are ‘Western’ Palestinian militant lovers. Their ‘left’ politics with blinkers reduces their vision. Australian politics has such in their midst with ‘left’ politicians leading the charge against Israel.
Fortunately Australia has a positive policy toward Israel and their remarkable high-tech products and science advancements, which we in the West use every day such as our mobile phones.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award, The Gutenberg.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html